Saturday, 20 August 2011

Drama and Maths.

Beginning to look forward to the new semester now. Things have changed quite a lot at University over the summer. Both Paul and Sue have left the department and Michelle is on sabbatical until Christmas, which means a reorganisation of teaching and responsibilities. As part of the reshuffled I'm teaching Early Modern Drama for the first time at Level 2, which I can't wait to get stuck into. I'm also picking up London Theatre Now, an induction module for Level 1 and overseeing Making Theatre, which I hope will give students a chance to look in depth at the different approaches current practitioners have to the act of creation.

I'm retaining the second semester community project and am hopeful that Ham House will once again host the event. I've got a couple of ideas already, but most of this work is developed in consultation with the students, so at this point I'm just scribbling on the back of an envelope.

One idea is to create a journey based roughly on Lewis Carroll's Alice stories that would lead the audience through a series of encounters in the Ham lands to a finale at the house itself. We could either adapt Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass or create our own adventure, filled with new characters and problems. I'm wondering whether we couldn't link in with some local schools and use the drama to help explore the Maths curriculum. Could we create a scene that teachers the principles of probability, algebra, geometry, trigonometry etc? Or perhaps find a way to personify time and space, enabling a very human introduction into the world of physics?

My own understanding of both disciplines is remedial to say the least. I always struggled at school with the abstract and conceptual notion of pure ideas. I desperately needed to understand exactly how the work I was doing could affect me or those around me. It was too big to be necessary. Now I'm much older I find the patterning of maths and the sheer imaginative leaps that physics calls for fascinating. I wonder whether a cleverly devised show couldn't entice younger children into a more curious approach?

To help get the ball rolling I've been reading a brilliant book Alex's Adventures in Numberland by the journalist Alex Bellos. It's a systematic explanation both of the history of mathematical thought and of the applied uses that even the most speculative number games can offer. It's certainly food for thought.


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